tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC March 16, 2011 4:00am-5:00am EDT
and their budget doesn't do that very well. >> ezra klein and i could talk budget all night. we have to get out of the way for another show on msnbc. ezra klein, thanks for joining us tonight. >> thank you. you can have the last word at our blog. tomorrow night on the show, i will have an exclusive interview with senate majority leader harry reid. "the rachel maddow show" is up next with more on the crisis in japan. good evening, rachel. >> good evening, lawrence, thanks very much for that. thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. we were looking today for up close footage of the kind of technology and material, the actual physical stuff that is going so wrong now in that japanese nuclear power plant we learned so much about in the last few days. one thing we found in the tape archives, fairly amazing piece of footage from anne thompson from the chief environmental affairs correspondent that aired on nbc nightly news after barack obama was elected president in
2008. check out a little piece of it. what ann is setting up here, what she's talking about, she's setting up discussion about the politics of nuclear power in the united states. but what i want you to focus on is what she is showing as she is setting it up. watch. >> this is a rare look at an assembly line of what some see as america's energy future, the components of nuclear power. tiny uranium pellets fill 12 foot long rods. put together, they become an assembly. inside reactors, the assembly's active engine, creating nuclear energy, once done, they have radioactive waste that could be dangerous for thousands of years, and that's the problem. how do you dispose of nuclear waste. >> actually, how you dispose of that stuff is just one problem with it. there's a whole different problem happening now.
seeing it being built like that is helpful for understanding what we're dealing with. you saw the pellets of uranium. some tooth see roll size and cad bury egg sized pellets. those pellets are stacked in these thin, 12 foot long tubes. they are metal tubes, basically filled with pellets of uranium. that's what we call fuel rods. that's essentially the business end of a nuclear reactor. big long fuel rods, mounted vertically, inserted into a steel containment vessel. what's happening inside when the reactor is going is a nuclear reaction, fission. atoms splitting. instead of creating a nuclear explosion, it is a controlled reaction. instead of blowing up, the reaction creates a lot of heat, and the heat is what we are after, because the heat is what these reactors use to make a whole lot of electricity. to make that nuclear reaction that makes that heat, those uranium pellets are the fuel. and just like any fuel, it gets
used up eventually. your 12 foot long fuel rod full of the uranium pellets lasts about six years in a reactor, with the reactor turned on, the fission process over about six years uses that uranium fuel up. it becomes something they call spent fuel. and when they call it spent fuel, what they mean is that it is degraded enough that even though it is still wicked radioactive, it is no longer efficient for doing what nuclear power plants are supposed to do, which is generating a lot of heat, boiling a lot of water, making steam that spins turbines that make electricity. so here's the problem. after you've gotten your good six years out of the fuel rods, what do you do with them? what do you do with the expired fuel? what do you do with that spent fuel rod? even after it has been taken out of service, it is still incredibly hot, and thermally hot, like touching the stove hot, but also very, very radioactive. what you do with it, you put
these hot, radioactive fuel rods underwater. you put them in pools that in the case of the japanese reactors that we are focusing on, pools that are about 40 feet by 45 feet. first of all, water just physically cools down the fuel rods. but the water also provides some shielding for their radioactivity, just like with an active reactor that has to be shut for some reason, these spent fuel rods essentially need to be treated the same way. they are so hot, they need to be kept underwater, and the water can't just sit there, it needs to be circulating so it cools the rods off. as the cooling system stops and the rods are hot enough, if the water stops circulating, the rods are so hot, they will boil off the still water covering them. if the rods boil off the water covering them, so the water level drops and the fuel rods are exposed to the air, what happens? same thing as in an active reactor that's been shut down. it is not good. uranium remember are little pellets in these metal tubes.
if those tubes are exposed to the air, the metal oxidizes and starts to breakdown. it is like the idea of rusting, it is not rusting, it is oxidi seepation. if the bottom of your car looks like this, like mine does, you worry about whether you have to replace it, whether you need framework done, or whether you need a new car. rust. sir cone yum doesn't rust but it does objection diez when exposed to air. the combination of heat and the objection did iization, it is like super fast rusting. exposing those fuel rods to the air causes that. it is like super fast rusting on steroids and that's trouble.
between that and the heat, the metal starts to breakdown, it allows your an number to be exposed. and then it is so hot, it begins to melt. same true for fuel rods and active reactors that have to be shut down. also true for the rods in the pool. these have to be cooled from five to ten years before they're safe enough to be taken out of the pools and put into dry storage. until they are safe enough for that, they need constant attention, a constantly operating cooling system to keep them covered with water, or we talk about the same kind of meltdown you see in an active reactor shut down for some reason. the difference is that with the spent fuel rods, it is probably worse. i realize this is a tough time to say worse. not saying it to be upsetting. i am saying it because i think it is frankly less upsetting to actually understand what is going on than it is not to understand. and this is understandable. the reason spent fuel rods can be more dangerous than a shut down active nuclear reactor is because of two things. first, a spent fuel pool that loses the cooling system and has
the watery vap rate is a greater source of radiation leak than a reactor, simply because there are often more fuel rods in a spent fuel pool than in an active reactor. the stuff has to sit there for eight to ten years. sometimes they may get a lot of stuff in the same pool, which means there is a loss of cooling system to the pool if there is a meltdown, there is more uranium to form a bigger radioactive mass that everybody hopes we don't have to contemplate. the other reason the spent fuel rods are potentially more dangerous than a shut down reactor is because of where the pools are. when a reactor shuts down, you have to worry about the cooling system over the fuel rods there. that's taking place inside an incredibly strong internal containment vessel. that incredibly strong internal containment vessel is housed inside an incredibly strong external containment vessel. one of the guests described it as sort of a russian doll type system.
a containment vessel inside a containment vessel. the spent fuel poles can be just as radioactive, can often have more fuel rods in them, but they're not necessarily kept in that russian doll style multiple containment system. they don't want to move the fuel rods far from the reactors that they come out of. they are, of course, super hot and radioactive. you don't want to trek them across the country. in the reactors in trouble in japan, where do they move the fuel rods do? they move them to here, just up top. they are essentially just protected by the one external containment wall. and that external containment wall is something that we are all familiar with looking at pictures of. the walls blown off from various explosions the past few days. this is the daiichi plant we've been talking about. reactor 1, 2 and 3 were on and working when the quake happened friday. because of the quake, they shut down. because of the difficulty to keep them cool, and there are three other reactors there.
when the quake hit, they were turned off for maintenance. what those three reactors have, the reason we are talking about them now is because they have spent fuel poles inside them. as far as we can tell, they are just protected by outer containment walls, which had two fires and an explosion at one of the reactors with spent fuel poles continue, with a spent fuel pole in it. we had reports of the water level dropping at two other spent fuel pools. these are the ones at fukushima. there is trouble there keeping them cool, and there is a danger because of it. at reactor 4, there has been an explosion and now two fires. we know an explosion there cracked the roof. appears damage to the spent fuel rods is allowing for release of radioactivity there. japanese authorities did report a large spike in radio activity after the fire in number 4.
what that means is the force of that explosion or smoke from the fire or both carried aloft radioactive particles being released by the damaged spent fuel rods. uranium pellets in the big now probably damaged metal tubes. this is not a nuclear explosion. there are not nuclear chain reactions going on here, but this is a means by which radioactivity is being released into the atmosphere, and the question is whether or not those fuel rods, even if already damaged, whether they can be resubmerged. japanese officials floated the idea of helicopters dropping water on them today. they raised the idea of fire trucks or hoses being used to get water on them. we will turn to expert help trying to understand what the best hopes are for getting the situation under control. joining us now, nuclear physicist, frank vonn hippel. thanks for being here.
>> tell me what i got wrong in the explanation. >> the one thing i guess i would differ on is probably it wouldn't go all the way to meltdown in the pool, but it doesn't matter because long before that the volatile radioactivity would have been driven off by the heat. you don't need to go to meltdown to release the radioactivity we are concerned for the environment. >> just the damage to the fuel rods that could happen just by them being exposed to the air is enough to release radioactivity, that is the worst case. >> the planning around the uranium pellets, the tubes, would burst. at that point the heat would drive off -- the boiling point of the elements we are worried about is much below the temperature of the fuel we have at that point would drive it off into the atmosphere. and the other thing is that in
fact it is more than a crack in the roof of this facility. they are big holes in the walls, have been blown by that hydrogen explosion. >> does that mean with a crack to the roof but also big damage to the walls, does that mean any radiation being emitted from the damaged spent fuel rods is already just being emitted openly to the air? >> pretty much. some of it might play out on the wall to cool, and some of it might be plating out on the walls, but there are big holes that a large fraction of it could escape from. >> can the spent fuel rods at number 4 be made safe? do we know whether the damage to that unit is the kind of damage that would prevent getting and keeping them submerged under water here on out? >> as far as we know, the pool itself is intact. so if you can get water in it, and flood it above the level of
the fuel rods, you would stop this process. >> what if the pool is leaking. >> by the way, nobody knows what's going on out there. nobody can go up because the radiation levels are so high. the roof is still intact, hasn't been blown off as with units 1 and 3, so we are sort of -- everybody is guessing what the situation is there. but i think it is a pretty good, you know, deduction that the hydrogen was generated by the fuel, which means the hydrogen is generated at the same time the sir cone yum objection diezs. >> as the pipes breakdown, the metal rods breakdown, that releases hydrogen. >> basically what's happening is the sir cone yum is taking oxygen from h 20 and leaving h 2 and leads to explosive levels. >> if as they try from as much distance as they can muster to get water into that pool, if it
turns out they are firing that into that, if there are leaks, then what? >> then you have a problem. you can't prevent all of the volatile radioactivity from coming out and whatever fraction of it can go through the holes will go through the holes. >> and in terms of what we know about capacity about how many fuel rods would likely be inside that reactor, what sort of quantity are we talking about? >> i heard different numbers ranging from two to 15 reactor course. two to eight reactor cores' worth. >> so at worst scenario, eight reactor core's radioactivity released. >> it is understandable and consistent with the theory it
did dry out because the fuel from the unit number 4 was most recently discharged, therefore was the hottest, and therefore the water would have boiled off more rapidly from this. but units 5 and 6 are coming along behind and will pose the same challenge. >> could the fuel rods, if there is a problem in which they can't get these resubmerged because of too much damage to 4, putting aside 5 and 6, could they moved to an intact spent fuel pool somewhere else? >> i don't think so. i don't see any way in which people could actually manage to scoop that stuff up. i think people are struggling with how to get water in there. so much easier to have water to get that in, get this radioactive stuff out. so i think it has to be dealt --
i hope that the pool does hold water still. there's nobody has suggested it doesn't and that it is just a lack of putting more water in that is the problem, and that's what they should work on. >> if they are -- say the pool is intact, they are able to fill it up, looking at number 5 and 6 where the water levels they say are dropping, are they going to be able to maintain some sort of cooling function there in a way that doesn't mean that the crisis is indefinitely on-going? >> well, it will go on a long time. they will need a reliable source of water for these pools. you know, i thought you could take a hose out there with a helicopter or something like that. they are talking about trying to shoot from a fire engine up through the holes. part of the problem is actually that the wall hasn't blown away.
>> they are trying to get through the walls or the crack. >> but to be clear, the people doing this closeup work with what's going on right there are really in grave danger themselves of radiation. >> they are. and so radioactive there, they couldn't really go in there. they have to somehow do it from the outside. i mean, we talked about helicopters or somehow trying to shoot a hose through that hole, and i think they really need to get some kind of cameras in there to see what's going on. as far as i can tell, they haven't yet. >> frank von hippel, nuclear physicist, cofounder of the program on nuclear science at princeton. you are helping me understand this, which makes me feel better, but this is a really bad situation. thanks for helping us get through it. appreciate it. >> appreciate it. another question that merits attempt at explanation concerns exposure to radioactivity. what is in the clouds rising from the power plants, where is it going, what happens when it
it is the evening rush hour and the traffic should be going in that direction. instead, thousands of people are trying to get out of the town and into the main city. many traveled 150 miles to tokyo because they didn't trust the government's 12 mile evacuation plan. and tonight, scientists warn that there might be some danger from radiation, even here. >> tokyo is where nbc's chief science correspondent robert bezel joins us from tonight. good morning, bob. thank you very much for joining us. happy to have you with us. >> my pleasure, rachel. >> one in ten people in japan lives in tokyo. 13 million people in that city. what is your sense of how the city is coping as a large metropolis in this fifth day since the quake and the tsunami? >> i don't think that there's not been some noticeable effect of anything coming to a halt.
there are a lot of aftershocks. you feel an earthquake about twice a day here. but i don't think people are in any great panic. a lot of japanese people wear masks to start with because there are fears of germs, so maybe there's a few more wearing masks because of fear of radiation, but i think most people trust that the government is telling the truth, that the health danger from radiation here is minimal. a lot of foreigners left the country, particularly people that can get to other countries nearby in asia and get their families out, not because there's a dangerous situation now, but because they're concerned if there were to be a massive nuclear incident at the power plant, then of course everything would become very chaotic and they wouldn't be able to get out at all. so there's been a lot of that, crowding at train stations. the train service has been erratic at times because of confusion from the earthquake aftershocks, but there hasn't been a lot of in my limited experience, there has not been a
lot of effect from the radiation here in tokyo. >> and in terms of the city government in tokyo reported elevated radiation levels, but levels not so high that they pose any immediate health risk, do you describe people as feeling not distrusting of their government's assurances about radiation levels. do you have a sense, particularly with your scientific background, in how the fear of radiation, fear of the nuclear disaster is still on-going, it is in ter playing with the rest of the traumatic impact of the disaster? >> well, it really is a horrible combination, of course, to have a big fraction of a country wiped out by an earthquake, then have a terrible tsunami, then have this on-going nuclear thing which has yet to be resolved and is now the second worst commercial reactor disaster ever after chernobyl, and they are not sure when it will be over. this is a country on edge.
in addition to that, the economy is tanking because one-third of the electricity is not being generated, and that's going to have long, long lasting economic effects on japan. so i think that people are very worried about those kind of issues. a lot of people have relatives in the area that's effected, and there's exhaustion and trauma from so many things at once. it is hard to comprehend how bad it can be for people, but i don't think anybody is worried about not trusting the government. i think that, you know, you're always going to find people who look for conspiracy theories, think the government is not telling the truth or being forthcoming. and i have no way of knowing that they're not. i think everybody i talked to says that the government just has too much to lose if it comes out they were lying to people about what the true dangers were. >> bob, in terms of being able to report on this disaster, you and other journalists that you have talked with since you've
been there, do you feel you are able to do your job and get out and report, do you feel safe to do so? are you having to take precautions related to radiation? >> well, the radiation is an interesting -- you talk about irrational fear of radiation. they say at one time here radiation levels were 20 times above normal. normal is very low, and 20 times above normal is about the amount you would get if you took an airplane trip from los angeles to new york. so you're not talking about getting a huge amount of extra radiation from those levels. and of course, radiation can do horrible things, and this is a country because of america's actions in world war ii suffered -- the only country that had a nuclear attack on it, so there's a special kind of lingering fear of nuclear stuff here, but everybody has it. you can't see it, you can't feel it, and you don't understand it, so it becomes much more fearful than perhaps other things that are more dangerous to you than the radiation.
so it is hard to say exactly what somebody should do if they can, just listen to the government and take adequate precautions. >> robert bezel in tokyo for us tonight. thank you for joining us, bob. appreciate it. >> thank you. plumes of radioactive steam are escaping into the atmosphere in japan. how radioactive are the plumes, where are they, where are they going next, and how can this all be kept in perspective? that and more next.
the ways we know the fuel rods have been damaged, the signs it has happened frankly are all bad signs, but they're also pretty definitive, and more information is better than less information in a situation like this, okay? first, the hydrogen explosions at the reactors are a sign that hydrogen was released as a by-product of the fuel rods breaking down. so that's one sign that the fuel rods are breaking down. the hydrogen explosions. also, radioactivity they can can detect in the air. that is a sign the fuel rods are breaking down and releasing radioactive particles from the radioactive fuel into the environment. those are signs that tell us the fuel rods are breaking down. but they do not tell us how much they have been breaking down. remember, there's a difference between some meltdown and a total meltdown. a partial meltdown means there
has been some damage to the nuclear fuel. and of course, authorities want to prevent more from occurring. total meltdown means they haven't been able to control it, and the fuel turned into molten radioactive mass which may be hard to contain by any means. also means that any radioactive release from the damaged fuel has been maximized if it is an uncontrolled meltdown. so they want to keep any meltdown partial and not total. given that, how partial a meltdown are we talking about here? what has already happened in japan? what proportion of nuclear fuel at the reactors is damaged so far? the international atomic energy commission said in vienna that reactor number 2 that had the explosion roughly this time yesterday, they thought there was damage, but the iaea was estimating it to be less than 5% of the fuel in the reactor, less than 5%. unfortunately, the company an hour ago worsened that estimate. they say at reactor 2, they
think one-third of the fuel rods at the reactor are damaged, 33%. they also say at reactor 1, they think the damage is 70%. again, a partial meltdown is not the same as a complete meltdown. this is significant damage they are talking about now. more ahead, live from japan and from the experts. stay with us.
the nuclear reactor complex called daiichi is located right here in the japanese prefecture of fukushima, about 60 miles from the city of sendai, which is probably where pictures of some of the most brutal devastation from the earthquake and tsunami friday have come from. the plant is about 170 miles from tokyo. because of radiation that has been released by the on-going nuclear disaster at daiichi, almost everyone that works at the plant has been evacuated. they are down to a skeleton crew of 50 very brave people that are taking great personal risk and who frankly the world are counting on. 20 miles around daiichi has been evacuated, people have been ordered to leave. between 20 and 30 kilometers, 12 to 19 miles from the plant advised to make the home as air tight as possible and stay indoors.
authorities as far away as the great population center that is tokyo have reported radiation levels that they describe as being as high as 20 times above normal for the city. sounds terrible and certainly is not good, but doesn't necessarily mean that is a level that's going to get anybody sick. with radiation, it is the amount of radiation you are exposed to and how long you are exposed to it. you wouldn't want to go around being constantly chest x-rayed every day of your life, but the fear of radiation exposure from one x-ray doesn't stop you from getting one if your doctor says you need it. it is worth understanding what is worth worrying about and not worth worrying about. for the people of japan, it is about preventing significant exposure. out of desire to limit exposure to radiation in japan, there were warnings today that accompanied the latest forecasts there for rain or snow in parts of the country. on japanese television, people that live near the reactors were warned to keep bodies covered
up, not let rain or snow touch their skin. there are three things to consider about the way radiation is moving around japan. one is of course just how much of it there is. just concern for the sheer amount of radiation that ends up in the atmosphere, that's why everybody is so focused on what is still happening at daiichi. the second concern is which way the wind will blow the radiation. literally, how is the weather going to deliver the radiation around japan or off its coast. the third concern now is not just about the shut down nuclear reactors at daiichi, but also having spent fuel rods emitting radiation, that in some cases may be spread by fire. is that radiation source from spent fuel rods a quantitatively or qualitatively new concern today? is that potentially a worse radiation source in terms of human exposure than what we've already been worried about the past few days? joining us now, arnold gunneder son, an executive from the nuclear industry turned safety watchdog.
worked on three mile island cleanup and on the class action lawsuit resulting from that disaster in the 1990s. mr. gunneder son, thank you for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> are the leaks associated with this reactor potentially more dangerous than the leaks from the other three shut down reactors? are the radioactive particles released from a damaged spent fuel rod worse than what's released from damaged fuel rods and reactor that's been shut down? >> the damage from the fuel rods has long lived isotopes. that fuel has been sitting around a long time, and the short-lived isotopes like iodine are no longer there, so what is there is sees yum, stron see up, plutonium and other long lived isotopes. what's happening close to that reactor is probably really powerful gama rays, like an x-ray.
when the fuel rods burn or become volatile like dr. von hippel said, when that happens, now particles are released. the particles are affecting people off site in the rain and falling on their clothing and things. my guess is the biggest problem is direct gamma rays, x-rays coming out of the fuel pool. >> those would be the things of most concern to the people on site at the nuclear facility, gamma radiation. >> that's correct. >> okay. let me just ask you to restate what you just said about radioactive particles, in terms of how radiation travels, where the weather takes it. what can you explain about the concerns here, is it about breathing it in, is it about the cloud traveling to other places and being brought down by the rain, for example? how does that work? >> yeah. you know, if you're downstream from a smoker directly, you're
going to be right in the smell a lot. but if you're ten feet to either side, you may just smell it a little. i think that's what's happening now. we are seeing wide variations in instrument readings. i don't think it is because the amount of radiation is pulsing, i think the same amount of radiation is coming out, but more likely the wind is pushing the plume to the left or pushing the plume to the right. it's very difficult to determine now, because remember, these things have exploded. whatever radiation detectors were in the reactors are obliterated. so now experts are stuck chasing the radiation around the country, and the aircraft carrier reagan incidentally flew through, drove through a plume out 100 miles at sea. they didn't know that was there. so the problem becomes where does that plume go, and where is it going next.
it looks like one bumped into tokyo a few hours, now moved on. and the question is where should they put the radiation detectors to give them the best idea about the magnitude of this problem. >> if we could get better at tracking it, and that may happen over time, may happen as more resources are devoted to that, steven chu talked about that in congress, if we could get better figuring out where the plumes were and where they were going, what could we do about it, or is it a matter of offering warning and telling people to get out of the way if they need to? >> well, it would definitely effect radiation evacuation planning. if there's one good thing that's happened in this event, most of the wind has been offshore. so a combination of knowing where the plume is and knowing which way the wind is going to come from would tell you whether, you know, perhaps the north side of the site should be
evacuated or the south side. it would help dramatically in evacuation planning to know better what's coming out of the plant and where the plumes are going. >> in terms of your overall experience in the nuclear industry and your experience with recovery from three mile island and the class action lawsuit thereafter, do you feel like the nuclear energy industry as a whole was prepared to deal with an incident of this magnitude, or is this beyond the realm of anything that was ever imagined in worst case scenarios for nuclear energy planning? >> no, it is not beyond the realm of what's ever been imagined, but no, i don't think they are handling it as well as they could. there's a lot of similarities here to three mile island, underestimating the magnitude of the incident on the first day, for instance. that's a dead ringer for what happened at three mile island. waiting for an evacuation for several days, that's a dead ringer for what happened at three mile island.
the difference is that governor thornburg at three mile island did tell pregnant women and young children to evacuate, and i believe that the japanese should do that out beyond this 20 kilometer or 12 mile zone. i think the japanese should extend that warning for pregnant women and children out to at least the 30 kilometer zone. being in your house with a developing fetus, for instance, is not a good idea because your cells are growing very fast, and it is fast growing cells that are more susceptible to radiation. if i were the authorities there, i would suggest that pregnant women and young children leave further out and they haven't. >> arnold gunneder son, thank you very much for your time. msnbc chris jansing is up next. she will bring a live update from japan.
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they were picking over the remains of a town that no longer exists. as if earthquake and tsunami were not enough, no sooner had the water retreated then fire engulfed the town. fueled by kerosene from cooking stoves and wooden remains of thousands of houses, it burned for two days, and left nothing. walking through it now, the sten much of smoke is still everywhere. friday morning of last week, this was home to 17,000 people. only 5,000 have been accounted for. the population was certainly aware of the danger, sign warns this is a tsunami in undags area. the trouble is it says the danger area ends here. the power of this tsunami wave took it for well over a mile further down this valley. it is no surprise that the poor people here were caught completely unaware. >> joining us live from tokyo, chris tokyo is msnbc's chris jansing host of "jansing and
company." thanks very much for taking time to join us. really appreciate it. >> hi, rachel. >> hi. even areas like tokyo that weren't affected by the earthquake or by the tsunami are dealing with small earthquakes and rolling blackouts and potential radiation from this crippled nuclear plants. how do you sense people are handling it? >> well, there's definitely a growing sense of unease here. you would think 150 miles away especially after the initial days when there was a sense that there was no danger here, things would be okay. but there are a number of things that play in it and it really has escalated over the last 24 hours with these reports of not just the fact that there were levels of radiation that were found here in tokyo. ten times normal. but then reports that, you know, some u.s. service members were absolutely tested positive for having been exposed to radiation, that folks at two of
the u.s. naval bases that are in the tokyo area were asked to stay indoors. i mean, just these reports that continue to trickle out. and i think you have to add into that, rachel, the fact that there are growing concerns about whether or not the folks here know the entire story. it's not in the nature of the japanese, necessarily, to strongly question these kinds of things but those questions are starting to be asked. and so even here a growing sense of unease and even if you could avoid those news reports, we continue to have these after shocks. there was a pretty big one several hours ago. shook the building where i am right now. so there are these constant reminders everywhere you go, rachel. >> is the government able to accomplish the basic facts of an authority in a situation like this in terms of communicating with people in terms of managing people's communication with one another, facilitating that --
water, food, shelter, health care? the government exerting its basic authority skills? >> look, the prime minister is on television. he's urging calm. they've deployed a hundred thousand members of the military. a lot of people were surprised when they accepted a lot of offers of outside help. at least 91 nations have said they would come in. i think there are now 10 to 12 different countries that have brought in search-and-rescue organizations. but at least in the immediate area, the quake and the tsunami, it is an absolute logistical nightmare there. as you can imagine, it's dangerous. there are concerns about how far that danger zone goes in terms of radiation. and so it's clear that they have not been able to do everything that they need to do just to get the basics to those who have survived. 550,000 people still displaced by this.
many of them are still living in shelters and really looking just to get the basics. you know, this is unprecedented. this is a country that was so well prepared for an earthquake but the tsunami that followed, the devastation that followed, you know, just has been absolutely overwhelming, rachel msnbc's chris jansing. thank you for joining us tonight, chris. i really look forward to your special report later tonight. >> thanks. >> chris will be anchoring a special live from tokyo tonight at 11:00 p.m. eastern immediately following the ed show. i highly recommend you stick around for that tonight. some of the surprising assets of the united states that we have to bring to bear on this crisis you might not have known about, coming up. [ doctor ] here's some health information for people over 50.
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it was created by congress after world war ii to design and produce and develop nuclear weapons. the atomic energy commission later turned into two other agencies, one that governed nuclear weapons, the other nuclear energy. then in the late '70s during our country's energy crisis, the two departments were combined once again into the department of energy. so the energy department doesn't just oversee america's nuclear industry today because nobody else wanted the job. the nuclear industry is why the department of energy exists at all which is why today's long scheduled house appropriations subcommittee hearing on the department of energy's budget turned into this detailed briefing from our nation's energy secretary on his department's and our nation's response to the nuclear elements of japan's disaster right now. we are positioning sequence management response teams in the u.s. consulates and military installations in japan. these teams have the skills, expertise, and equipment to help assess, survey, monitor and sample areas. we sent our aerial measuring
capability including detectors and equipment to provide assessments for contamination on the ground. in total this team includes 34 people. the department's also monitoring activities through the department of energy, nuclear incident team and is employing its national laboratories to provide ongoing modeling capabilities based on a variety of scenarios. >> predictive atmospheric modeling capabilities. have you been thinking of the plumes of radiation being released at the dai-ichi nuclear plant? so has our department of energy. they're monitoring it 24 hours a day seven days a week they say, the work being done by meteorologists, nuclear scientists, and computer scientists based at the lawrence livermore national laboratory in california. if you are one of those scientists working on this project at the lawrence livermore lab, one, thank you for your service to our country. we are very glad that you do the work that you do. two, please go back to work now. our nation's nuclear regulatory commission has also set up a 24-hour war room at their
headquarters operation center in rockville, maryland. the u.s. has sent more personnel to help the japan response overall than any other country, so far 148 personnel and 12 rescue dogs. the u.s. navy 7th fleet is based in japan and has the u.s. reagan strike ship off the coast. today it delivered supplies, food, water and blankets plus part of the search-and-rescue efforts. some other americans headed to the northeast were instead sent to the west coast of the country because of rising radiation levels. u.s. navy aircraft were used today to fly two missions to survey debris fields out at sea and the military also says it has provided the japanese government with two fire trucks. no u.s. military personnel were lost in the quake or the tsunami in japan. all u.s. military personnel based in that country have been accounted for. that said, several sailors were given potassium iodide tablets today as a thyroid cancer preventative after they returned from flying humanitarian